Our Blog

Interest Rates Are On the Rise!

If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home sometime soon, this news is for you.

For a long time now, interest rates have remained near all-time record lows. That has opened up some terrific opportunities for people looking to buy a home. But, that’s all about to change.

Earlier today, the Federal Reserve Bank announced that short-term interest rates will increase by one-quarter point. In addition, the Fed signaled that further rate increases probably will occur in 2017, most likely taking the form of several upward moves adding up to an additional three-quarters of a point increase. If that’s the case, then we can expect short-term interest rates to be about a full point higher at this time next year than they are today.

This news matters to people who are looking to buy a home with the assistance of mortgage financing, since higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow money and therefore decrease overall buyer purchasing power. And, of course, anything that effects the ability of buyers to buy property also effects the ability of sellers to sell their home.

So, if you’ve been thinking about getting into the real estate market and selling and/or buying a new home, take note. Now might be the perfect time to take advantage of relatively-low interest rates before they’re gone. We can help! Contact us to learn more and to start looking for available property today.

What preparing for holiday visits can teach you about selling your house

It’s officially the holiday season. And, for many of us, that means it’s time for buying presents, baking yummy desserts, and getting the house ready for visits from family and friends.

About that last one: If you’re like most people, getting your house ready for guests probably involves a certain protocol of cleaning. You probably spend some time scrubbing the bathroom, giving the kitchen a thorough cleansing, and tidying up the rest of the rooms in the house so they’re presentable and clutter-free.

It just so happens that the same process can be extremely useful in preparing to sell your home.

When you place your home on the market, preparing your property for open houses and accompanied showings is a lot like getting it ready for house guests around the holidays. You want your house to be as clean, warm and inviting as possible.

Two important places where we often instruct clients to focus their efforts are the bathrooms and the kitchen. That’s because those are two areas that buyers focus on the most when they look at a house. In general, the cleaner, more stylish and well-appointed those rooms are, the better. As for the rest of the house, it’s important that other rooms be neat and tidy and that they be as free of clutter as possible – just like they would be if you’re having guests over for a visit. Buyers want to be able to see themselves living in your space (sometimes buyers even start mentally ‘placing’ their furniture in your rooms during a showing), and if they can’t do that because they can’t see past your stuff, they’re less likely to buy your house.

But, it’s not all about cleaning and tidying. Sometimes there’s more to the story. People often ask us where they should focus their efforts if they’re hoping to make improvements to their house before putting it on the market. Pre-market renovations don’t always generate worthwhile returns, but if you do intend to make improvements,, the rooms where you can get the most bang for the buck are often the kitchen and the bathrooms. Like we said, buyers pay special attention to these rooms when they look at a house, so the shinier and more impressive they are, the better. (It’s also no coincidence that when you watch one of those house flipping shows on television, those are the rooms where they focus their renovation efforts. Flippers know that having a nice kitchen and bathrooms won’t necessarily sell a house, but if those spaces present poorly to prospective buyers, it can impede a successful sale quite a bit.)

So, if you’re thinking about selling, put yourself in the shoes of someone coming over to visit for the holidays. What would their impression be of your home, and what would you do to improve it before they arrived? Even small steps, like colorful bathroom towels or shiny kitchen appliances, can go a long way to making a positive impression, and in real estate first impressions mean everything.

The benefits and risks of shopping for property online

Today is “Cyber Monday”, a day when millions of people will take to their computers in search of extraordinary shopping deals and discounts.

The Internet has revolutionized commerce as we know it, and real estate is no exception to the trend. These days, it’s easier than ever before to hop online and market your house for sale or lease, or search available property listings for houses to buy or rent.

Sometimes, it’s tempting for people to think that real estate agents are a thing of the past and that they can leverage technology to go it alone in the real estate market. But, despite all of the benefits that technology can offer, there are reasons why representing yourself in real estate can be a bad idea.

If you’re offering property for sale or lease, a licensed real estate agent can offer important benefits. Agents can provide you with expertise on the local market so you make sure you don’t turn buyers away with a price that’s too high – or leave money on the table by under-pricing your listing. Agents also can guide you through potentially thorny issues like lead paint liability and the process of negotiating an offer. Most importantly, agents who are members of the Multiple Listing Service can post your listing online and expose it to thousands of other local agents and their clients.

If you’re in the market to buy or rent, the same benefits apply. Even though you can search Multiple Listing Service listings on countless online sites, your agent might be able to access additional information about those listings that is important to your decision. Agents also can set up private showings for you and help you tour property with a discerning eye. And, agents can be helpful in guiding you through the process of placing an offer, negotiating a price, and doing what you need to do to close.

So, as tempting as it might be to go it alone, we always advise people to work with a licensed real estate agent when they buy, sell or rent property. If you’d like to find out more about some of the benefits we could offer to you by serving as your real estate agent, please feel free to contact us. We’d be delighted to speak with you!

New Smoke Detector Regulations Take Effect on December 1

If you’re thinking about selling your home in the near future, take notice: the state law requiring you to have working smoke detectors in your home at the time of sale is about to change.

Effective December 1, 2016, the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal will require single- and two-family homes built before 1975 to have working smoke detectors that are properly installed, less than ten years old, and that have a sealed, non-replaceable, non-rechargeable battery inside. Among other updated rules, smoke detectors also must be photoelectric (or a combination photoelectric with ionization technology) and must have a hush button feature to silence nuisance alarms.

As always, homeowners selling property need to have a certificate of compliance from the local fire department before they sell their home. And with the new rules, homeowners need to know that older ionization sensor alarms that have a replaceable nine-volt battery – which are commonly sold at many home improvement stores and found inside many homes – won’t be enough to comply with state requirements.

The changes are being instituted in part because of evidence that several recent deadly fires in Massachusetts took place in homes that had smoke detectors that were not operational at the time of the fire.

“Last winter too many people died in homes without working smoke alarms,” said Peter Ostroskey, the State Fire Marshal. “No one thinks fire will happen to them, but a majority of fire deaths occur in homes without working alarms. Alarms that are easier to keep in good working order, should reduce the reasons people disable them.”

The rules themselves are comprehensive, so homeowners should be careful to read the requirements carefully to ensure full compliance. For more information, please click here (and make sure you check for the updated regulations to be posted after Dec. 1.). Also, be sure to check with your local fire department to see if there are more rigorous local rules in place and to find out how far in advance you need to schedule an inspection if you’re selling property.

Make the most out of autumn to get your home ready to sell

According to traditional wisdom, there’s not much that happens in the New England real estate market during the autumn and early winter months. Most real estate agents would probably tell you that fall is a time when the real estate market goes into virtual hibernation, with many potential buyers and sellers shelving their plans to move until spring.

However, that’s not always the best advice. The autumn months can provide lots of solid opportunities for people looking to buy and sell – if you know how to take advantage of them.

If you’re ready to put your home on the market, there’s no particular reason to wait until spring. The relative shortage of homes for sale during the autumn months can make your property stand out if you present it the right way. Plus, the heightened competition for property brought about by the lack of supply can encourage prospective buyers to pay a premium in some cases. Taking advantage of this situation generally means presenting your property to buyers in just the right way, and especially pricing it to sell.

Even if you’re convinced that waiting until spring is the right move strategically, the autumn months still can be beneficial for getting your property ready for sale.

It’s always a good idea to declutter a home as much as possible prior to marketing it for sale, and the cold weather months provide the perfect opportunity to go through your home and weed out anything you no longer need.

If you’re ambitious enough, you can go room by room and briefly empty out all of the contents – even furniture. Restore only what you really need, cleaning and organizing as you go. Consider selling or donating anything usable that’s left over. You’ll probably be amazed at how different your house will look when you’re done – and so will the buyers you invite in later. (Bonus tip – while you’re at it, don’t forget about attics, basements, and garage areas. They all count to buyers!)

As you’re going through and decluttering your home, take a look around at each room for any small maintenance items you can attend to this fall. Buyers are going to spend a lot of money on your house. In order to make your best impression, you want everything to be in top condition. Don’t wait for a home inspector to point out defects and for buyers to ask for money back. Put yourself in their shoes and fix whatever you find in advance. Now’s the time to fix leaky faucets, broken light fixtures, and surface blemishes. You can also repaint or resurface any areas that look like they need a good freshening up. Just be sure to hire a pro if you’re not the handy type, especially for bigger projects. Also, resist the temptation to ‘paper over’ defects that need actual repair.

Finally, fall can be a good time to make sure major systems in your home are working like they should be. For example, if your heating system hasn’t been serviced in a long time, call a technician to stop by and give it a tune up. If you have working fireplaces, consider calling a chimney sweep to get them cleaned before there’s snow up on the roof. And, always remember to make sure you have adequate, working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Buyers like to know that major systems have been properly maintained, so having an up-to-date service record can be handy. Best of all, you’ll benefit from having better working and more efficient systems all winter long, which can save you lots of money and frustration.

Want some more tips on how to prepare your house for a future sale? Give us a call, we’d be happy to speak with you!

452 South Broadway – SOLD!

Lyric Properties is delighted to announce that our listing at 452 South Broadway in Lawrence closed on October 11.

Congratulations to the new owners of the property, and congratulations to the sellers as they embark on their next chapter.

94 Salem Street, Reading – Price Reduced!

Our listing at 94 Salem Street in Reading is now offered at only $849,500!

Known as the "Amos Parker House," this stately c.1780 colonial is situated on a graceful half-acre corner lot. A soaring front foyer draws you into nearly 3,900 sq.ft. of living area across three floors. The first floor features warm, period-design spaces (living room, dining room, family room and studio), with antique wood floors, woodwork, Rumford style fireplaces, bake ovens, and interior pocket shutters. There is a bright kitchen, an enclosed sun porch, and a renovated "tavern"/laundry area. Upstairs you'll find bedroom space on the second floor, with fireplaces and wood floors, and two full bathrooms. The third floor has four more finished rooms with closets, which could potentially be used as additional sleeping/living/home office space. You'll love this property's mixture of classic charm and modern amenities, with lots of storage space, convenient to shopping, highways, Commuter Rail. The Reading Historical Commission includes this home on its inventory of historic properties.

Please contact us today to set up a private showing. You can also find out more here.

Choosing a place to live AND play (or run, bike and hike)

Runner’s World magazine is out with its list of the 50 best cities for running, and unsurprisingly, Boston is #3 on this list. The scorers cited Beantown’s large number of races, running stores and healthy food options as reasons for topping the list, while climate (it IS New England) and safety are counted against it.

It might seem crazy to choose your city or neighborhood based on factors like these, but for athletes and outdoor adventurers (both serious and recreational) it’s not. Many elite endurance athletes are attracted to cities like Boulder, Colorado or Flagstaff, Arizona so that they can train in a high-altitude setting. For recreational athletes, homes near streets with sidewalks or nearby trails can be super important.

I love to run. Before I moved to my current home, I lived in places where I didn’t necessarily feel safe running alone and I had to drive somewhere to get to a trail or area with sidewalks where I could safely run and bike. No fun. When it came time to buy a house, I knew I wanted a location where I could walk out my front door and hit the streets, without having to worry too much and without a lot of hassle. The city I moved to has great sidewalks, lots of quiet streets, and some amazing trails that are perfect for walking, running or hiking.

There are lots of factors to potentially consider when choosing a place to live, including the quality of the school system, the commuting distance to your job and the tax rate. While accessibility of places to play might seem low on the list or frivolous, it’s important to your quality of life. And you’re definitely not alone if you feel that way. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, 140 million Americans view outdoor recreation as an essential part of their daily lives.

So don’t be afraid to tell your real estate agent that recreational opportunities are essential to your home search. And if you’re doing your own research, I’ve found that cities and towns are usually happy to brag about their outdoor offerings (some obvious, some hidden jewels!) on their official websites.

Have you ever chosen a place to live based on the availability of recreational opportunities? Is that something that would figure into your home search? Let us know in the comments below.

Real estate can be tough on pets. Here are a few tips to make things less “ruff.”

The process of buying or selling a home can be stressful for us humans, but it can be especially hard on pets. Routines get knocked out of whack, strange people (including potential buyers, agents and home inspectors) are entering the property, and a general feeling of upheaval can be palpable.

When we start working with a new buyer or seller, we always try to find out as much as possible about their pets so we can help them make solid decisions for everyone who might be part of their household, two- and four-legged creatures alike.

When you’re selling your home

On the seller side, our top concern is how to handle showings with potential buyers. Our policy is to attend all showings, rather than slap a lockbox on the door so that buyers and their agents can stroll through on their own. Being there in-person allows us to keep an eye on pets and try to keep them from slipping out the door or getting into any restricted spaces (such as a particular bedroom or a closet) when buyers enter the house and start exploring and throwing doors open. If you’d like this type of service, make sure you ask agents if they provide “accompanied showings” before you hire them to sell your home.

It’s also good to let your agent know if visitors shouldn’t pet animals they see, or if a certain animal is aggressive toward strangers. This helps to prevent bad results.

If you’re super nervous about your pet during showings, we always recommend that you take them with you when you leave the house before people come over. Although this may not always be possible (and may not work for say, a gerbil or your goldfish), this is the best way to ensure your pet’s comfort and safety (and give you peace of mind).

When you’re looking to move to a new home

If you’re looking to buy or rent a home yourself, it’s especially important to inform your real estate agent about your pet, including breed and size. One of the biggest challenges pet owners run into is something called “pet restrictions.” This usually comes up with rentals and condo complexes.

Sometimes, pet restrictions are a creature of local ordinances, such as a ban on aggressive dog breeds. More frequently, however, they come up as the result of limitations placed on a property by an owner, developer, or association. The restrictions themselves vary, but some of the more common ones we’ve seen involve limitations on the type of animal (for example, “no dogs”), or on the size of pet allowed (for example, “dogs under 25 lbs. allowed”).

Whatever the case, they’re usually binding upon you unless you can somehow obtain an exemption (as in the case of a landlord who breaks their own rule to allow you to have a bigger pet.) It might be worth your while to investigate the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen designation. This is a program where dogs complete a 10-step “good citizen” test to earn a special certificate you could present to potential landlords who might be wary about accepting your pet. Items on the test include “accepting a friendly stranger” and “walking through a crowd.” Having the certificate might not guarantee entry for your dog, but it could definitely help your case.

As you begin your home search, you should also consider telling your agent to keep an eye out for certain pet-friendly features, such as a fenced backyard for pets to roam free, a nearby dog park or non-porous floors suitable for four-legged occupants. Don’t feel silly putting a strong emphasis on these types of features—pets are part of the family and deserve to be comfortable, too!

Have you ever moved or sold your house while you had a pet? What challenges did you face? Share your story in the comment section below.